Category: Alumni

Erik Herbert: Holy Grail! Energy Storage on the Nanoscale

Ever wondered what a materials science engineer sees on their computer screen on any given day? Here’s what Dr. Erik Herbert and his team are focused on.

Erik Herbert shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar tonight, Monday, October 12 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Tonight’s Husky Bites delves directly into our phones, laptops and tablets, on how to make them cleaner, safer, faster, and more environmentally friendly. It’s about materials, and how engineers focus on understanding, improving inventing materials to solve big problems.

MSE Assistant Professor Erik Herbert

Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Prof. Erik Herbert is focused on the lithium metal inside the batteries that power our devices. Lithium is an extremely reactive metal, which makes it prone to misbehavior. But it is also very good at storing energy. 

Optical microscope image showing residual hardness impressions in a high purity, vapor deposited, polycrystalline lithium thin film. The indents are approximately 1 micron deep and spaced by 35 microns in the plane of the surface (1 micron is a millionth of a meter). Among the key takeaways are the straight edges connecting the 3 corners of each impression and the lack of any discernible slip steps or terraces surrounding the periphery of the contact. Now, if you’re wondering what this means, be sure to catch Dr. Herbert’s session on Husky Bites.

“We want our devices to charge as quickly as possible, and so battery manufacturers face twin pressures: Make batteries that charge very quickly, passing a charge between the cathode and anode as fast as possible, and make the batteries reliable despite being charged repeatedly,” he says. 

On campus at Michigan Tech, Dr. Herbert and his research team explore how lithium reacts to pressure by drilling down into lithium’s smallest and arguably most befuddling attributes. Using a diamond-tipped probe, they deform thin film lithium samples under the microscope to study the behavior on the nanoscale.

“Lithium doesn’t behave as expected during battery operation,” says Herbert.  Mounting pressure occurs during the charging and discharging of a battery, resulting in microscopic fingers of lithium called dendrites. These dendrites fill pre-existing microscopic flaws—grooves, pores and scratches—at the interface between the lithium anode and the solid electrolyte separator.

During continued cycling, these dendrites can force their way into, and eventually through, the solid electrolyte layer that physically separates the anode and cathode. Once a dendrite reaches the cathode, the device short circuits and fails, sometimes catastrophically, with heat, fire and explosions.

Pictured: High-purity indium, which is a mechanical surrogate to lithium. It can be used to make electrical components and low melting alloys. “Note the scale marker,” says Herbert. “That distance is 5 millionths of a meter. The image was taken in a scanning electron microscope and shows the residual hardness impression from a 550 nm deep indent. The key noteworthy feature is the extensive pile-up around the edges of the contact, which suggests a deformation mechanism that conserves volume.”

Improving our understanding of this fundamental issue will directly enable the development of a stable interface that promotes safe, long-term and high-rate cycling performance.

“Everybody is just looking at the energy storage components of the battery,” says Herbert. “Very few research groups are interested in understanding the mechanical elements. But low and behold, we’re discovering that the mechanical properties of lithium itself may be the key piece of the puzzle.”

Dr. Iver Anderson is a senior metallurgist at Ames Lab, an inventor, and a Michigan Tech alumnus.

Iver Anderson, PhD will be Dean Callahan’s co-host during the session. Dr. Anderson is a Michigan Tech alum and senior metallurgical engineer at Ames Lab, a US Department of Energy National Lab. A few years ago, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, for inventing a successful lead-free solder alloy, a revolutionary alternative to traditional tin/lead solder used for joining less fusible metals such as electric wires or other metal parts, and in circuit boards.

As a result, nearly 20,000 tons of lead are no longer released into the environment worldwide. Low-wage recyclers in third-world countries are no longer exposed to large concentrations of this toxic material, and much less lead leaches from landfills into drinking water supplies. 

“There is no safe lead level,” says Anderson. “Science exists to solve problems, but I believe the questions have to be relevant. The motivation is especially strong to solve a problem when somebody says it is not possible to solve it,” he adds. “It makes me feel warm inside to have solved one problem that will help us going on into the future.”

Anderson earned his BS in Metallurgical Engineering in 1975 from Michigan Tech. “It laid the foundation of my network of classmates and professors, which I have continued to expand,” he said.

Anderson went on to earn his MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing his studies in 1982, he joined the Metallurgy Branch of the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

With a desire to return to the Midwest, he took a position at Ames Lab in 1987 and has spent the balance of his research career there and at Iowa State.

“I hope our work has a significant impact on the direction people take trying to develop next-gen storage devices.”

Erik Herbert

Professor Herbert, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

The factors that got me interesting engineering revolved around my hobbies. First it was through BMX bikes and the changes I noticed in riding frames made from aluminum rather than steel. Next it was rock climbing, and realizing that the hardware had to be tailor made and selected to accommodate the type of rock or the type or feature within the rock. Here’s a few examples: Brass is the optimal choice for crack systems with small quartz crystals. Steel is the better choice for smoothly tapered constrictions. Steel pins need sufficient ductility to take on the physical shape of a seam or crack. Aluminum cam lobes need to be sufficiently soft to “bite” the rock, but robust enough to survive repeated impact loads. Then of course there is the rope—what an interesting marvel—the rope has to be capable of dissipating the energy of a fall so the shock isn’t transferred to the climber. Clearly, there is a lot of interesting materials science and engineering going on here.

Hometown, hobbies?

I am originally from Boston, but was raised primarily in East Tennessee. Since 2015, my wife Martha and I have lived in Houghton with our three youngest children. Since then, all but one have taken off on their own. When I’m not working, we enjoy visiting family, riding mountain bikes, learning to snowboard, and watching a good movie.

Dr. Iver Anderson’s invention of lead free solder was 15 years (at least) in the making.

Dr. Anderson, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. Right out my back door was a 40 acre wood that all the kids played in. The world is a beautiful place, especially nature. That was the kind of impression I grew up with. My father was observant and very particular, for instance, about furniture and cabinetry. He taught me how to look for quality, the mark of a craftsman, how to sense a thousandth of an inch. I carry that with me today.


Orhan Soykan: How to Become a Prolific Inventor

Orhan Soykan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 5 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Join Dean Janet Callahan for supper along with Orhan Soykan, a prolific inventor and professor of practice in biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech with more than 100 patents to his name. Joining in will be one of Dr. Soykan’s former students, Tim Kolesar, MD, who earned his biomedical engineering degree at Michigan Tech in 2019 after first completing med school. He’s now a Development Quality Engineer at Abbott.

Who can be an inventor? “Anyone,” says Orhan Soykan. And he should know. Soykan has 37 issued U.S. patents and 66 pending U.S. patents. 

Soykan specializes in implantable devices, biosensors, and molecular medicine. He is the co-founder of two start-ups and has been a consultant to more than 20 firms.

Prolific inventor, scholar, alumnus, electrical engineer, and Professor of Practice, Dr. Orhan Soykan ’86 helped establish Michigan Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He has long been associated with Michigan Tech, first as a master’s student in electrical engineering (he graduated in 1986), then as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Then, seven years ago, after working 20 years at biomedical device powerhouse Medtronic and several more at startup YouGene, Soykan rejoined the University in a more formal way, as a professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He teaches a biomedical instrumentation lab and courses on medical devices, medical imaging, and numerical physics. He also mentors senior design teams of undergraduate students who work on projects for industry clients, the final big design project of their senior year.

Soykan commutes between homes and jobs in Houghton and Minneapolis in a single engine plane. He maintains a research lab in each home, too.

Michigan Tech BME alum, Tim Kolesar ‘19 was one of his students. “Dr. Soykan was my senior design team advisor,” says Kolesar. “Our team (three biomedical engineers and one electrical engineer) all worked together on a project for Stryker, investigating the thermal side effects of a surgical device used in brain surgery.”

Michigan Tech biomedical engineering alumnus Tim Kolesar, MD.

Before coming to Michigan Tech, Kolesar earned a BS in Human Biology from Michigan State University, and then a Doctorate of Medicine from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, in the Carribean. He also volunteered as a medical practitioner for the Himalyan Health Exchange, providing health care for underserved populations within remote regions along the Indo-Tibetan borderlands.

After graduating from Michigan Tech, Kolesar landed his dream job at Abbott, a multinational medical devices and health care company with headquarters in Abbott Park, Illinois, He works on cardiovascular devices for Abbott, including aortic and mitral heart valve replacements. At the moment he’s lead engineer on two projects, involved in device submission to the FDA in the US, and the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in the European Union.

Kolesar underscores the importance of time spent in the lab. During his time at Tech, he worked as an undergraduate researcher in the labs of biomedical engineering professors Dr. Rupak Rajachar and Dr. Jeremy Goldman, working on tissue engineering for injury repair in joints, and bioabsorbable stents for the heart. “These two opportunities played a large role in confirming my decision to pursue a career in biomedical engineering,” he says. “I believe the lab experience I gained at Michigan Tech played a pivotal role in securing my current role at Abbott.”

How do inventors get their ideas?

“I believe necessity is the mother of all invention. You must truly understand the problem and the boundaries the solution will have,” says Soykan. “After that, it is absolutely necessary to study scientific and engineering principles relevant to the problemAmong all his inventions, Dr. Soykan says he is most proud of those at the intersection of engineering and biology. His favorite: A method of isolating a small portion of a patient’s own heart muscle and converting it into a sensor to monitor levels of an antiarrhythmic heart medication.they will eventually become the tools for the development of the solution. And finally, you must look at work done by others, by reviewing technical literature and patent publications,” he adds.

“Now you are ready to tackle the problem by thinking as creatively as you can. This can be anywhere—outside when running or skiing, driving in traffic—make a list of the solutions you think of and discuss them with your colleagues and experts in the field. Finally, the ones that seem to pass the test, try them in the lab.”

Dr. Soykan, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. I became interested in science and technology through my high school physics teacher. Eventually I began to build some electronic circuits as a hobbyist, which eventually turned into a profession.  I cannot forget about the contributions of Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series. (And yes, I am old enough to remember watching the original episodes each week on TV as a young boy!

What is your favorite out of all your inventions?

Among all my inventions, I am most proud of a method of isolating a small portion of a patient’s own heart muscle and converting it into a sensor to monitor levels of an antiarrhythmic heart medication.

Dr. Orhan Soykan makes the commute between Houghton and Minneapolis at least twice a week.

Hometown, hobbies?

I earned my BS from Middle East Technical University, my MS from Michigan Tech and my PhD from Case Western Reserve University, all in electrical engineering. I worked for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Maryland, and Medtronic in Minneapolis and Tokyo, before becoming a part-time consultant to the medical device industry and a part time faculty member at Michigan Tech. I actually maintain two residences, one in Houghton, and the other in the Twin Cities. I’ve got labs in both homes. I commute weekly between the two locations with my single engine Mooney.  When I am not working or flying, I’m usually busy training for my annual marathon, or cross country skiing at Tech trails. 

Kewee and Birch

Dr. Kolesar, When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Whether I knew it or not, engineering has always been a part of me. My love for Physiology pushed me towards the world of medicine. However, during my third year of medical school, I had the pleasure of working with an orthopedic surgeon, and mechanical engineer, in Atlanta, Georgia. The experience truly opened my eyes to the realm of biomedical engineering, and sparked a fascination with the possibilities. This eventually led me back to Michigan Tech upon completion of my medical degree. 

Hometown, hobbies?

My wife, Jenn and I were both raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We now reside in the Minneapolis area. During my time at Michigan Tech we loved being able to return to the Upper Peninsula. The Keweenaw quickly became our second home, especially Copper Harbor. We spend our free time biking, nordic and downhill skiing, camping, hiking, running, and exploring the outdoors with our two dogs Kewee (short for Keweenaw) and Birch Bark.

Read more

In a Heartbeat


Bill Sproule: Houghton, Michigan Tech, and the Stanley Cup

The Stanley cup became NHL’s famous trophy in 1927. This is an early version of the trophy, circa 1893.

Bill Sproule shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar on Monday, September 21 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Bill Sproule, civil engineering professor turned hockey historian

What are you doing for supper this Monday night at 6? How about grabbing a bite with Bill Sproule, hockey historian and Michigan Tech civil and environmental engineering professor emeritus, along with Michigan Tech alumnus John Scott, NHL All-Star MVP?

Sproule’s research into hockey history began about 15 years ago when he first volunteered to teach a class on the subject at Michigan Tech. During Husky Bites he plans to share the history of the Stanley Cup and tell how a Canadian-born dentist, Doc Gibson, and his “partner in crime” Houghton entrepreneur James Dee made Houghton the birthplace of professional hockey, several years before the National Hockey League came into existence. He’ll also discuss the role Gibson and Dee played in Michigan Tech hockey.

When and where did hockey begin? A civil engineer in Montreal organized the first amateur game in 1875. Pictured: artists painting of an early hockey game at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada.

Serving as co-host along with Dean Janet Callahan during this session of Husky Bites is John Scott, an inspiration to many and the embodiment of Husky tenacity. 

Sproule and Scott two have a lot in common. A love of hockey, for one. A fondness for Houghton, for another. Both born in Canada. They’re both retired—but not really retired. They’re both authors. Finally, they’re both Michigan Tech engineering alums. Sproule earned his BS in Civil Engineering in 1970. Scott, a practicing engineer, graduated with his BS in Mechanical Engineering 2010. 

We’re proud to claim NHL All-Star MVP John Scott as a Husky. From 2002 to 2006, he provided no-holds-barred defense and effective penalty killing for Michigan Tech.


In college, Scott had no professional hockey ambitions. That was until he met former Huskies Hockey Assistant Coach Ian Kallay. “He said, ‘You can do this. You can make a career out of this. If you put in the work, put in the hours.’ It was a huge moment for me,” Scott recalled.

How does his ME degree impact his game? “It definitely helps me pass a puck. I’m better than most at figuring out a bank pass off the boards. And most guys sharpen their skates to one-half of an inch. But I know how to increase—or not increase—my bore,” he said.

Scott’s wife, alumna Danielle Scott, who earned a BS in biomedical engineering from Michigan Tech in 2006, stepped away from her role with leading biomed company Boston Scientific to care for the couple’s six daughters, one just a few months old. Their oldest is now 8. John works with a mechanical engineering consulting firm in Traverse City. His podcast, Dropping The Gloves, also keeps him busy. “That’s where we talk about hockey, family, and all other things that are going on in my life post-NHL.”

Scott’s number one job, he firmly insists: family. That means raising his six daughters together with Danielle. He says he’s already hoping for number seven.

John Scott has a book out: A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut. It’s his personal memoir.

Professor Sproule, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Actually, engineering was not my first choice. I hoped to become an architect but wasn’t accepted into an architectural program. My uncle was a civil engineer, so that’s why I picked civi; I was thinking structural engineering would be similar to architecture, and I was right, in a way!

I spent my first two years learning at Lake Superior State, a branch of Michigan Tech at the time, then came to Houghton for my junior and senior years, where I took a few transportation courses. After graduating from Tech I headed to the University of Toronto for a master’s degree, specializing in transportation engineering.

After earning my graduate degree I worked for Transport Canada and then joined a transportation engineering consulting firm. I always wondered about teaching, and was hired by a community college to help teach their their transportation engineering program. Teaching soon became my passion. Then, I headed to Michigan State University where I earned my Ph.D. in civil engineering, specializing in airport planning and design. I also taught at the University of Alberta and did more consulting before deciding to join the birthplace of Hockey—and, the faculty at Michigan Tech—in 1995.

At Tech, in my role as professor, I conducted research and taught courses in transportation engineering, public transit, airport design, and hockey history. The hockey history course was always full. How in the world did I end up teaching hockey history? I’ll tell the full story during Husky Bites…

Bill Sproule’s book, Houghton, the Birthplace of Professional Hockey, came out in 2018. And he’s got another hockey book in the works.


Family and Hobbies?

I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. My wife, Hilary was born and raised on a dairy farm north of Toronto, and earned her degrees from the University of Toronto and University of Alberta. We met in Toronto on a blind date. Together we raised two sons in Houghton. One graduated in engineering at Michigan Tech and Virginia Tech and now works in the Detroit area. The other is currently a graduate student in art history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. All the while Hilary taught in the Physical Therapy Assistance program at nearby Finlandia University.

We’re now retired, living here in Houghton. I’m still active on several professional committees and serve on the executive committee of the Society for International Hockey Research. I’ve taken a few online courses in my retirement, too: Hockey GM and Scouting, and Hockey Analytics.

I’ve penned two books, Copper Country Streetcars, and Houghton: The Birthplace of Professional Hockey. I’m currently working on my third book project, all about the history of Michigan Tech hockey—and doing some cartooning.

Credit: Dr. Bill Sproule

Read more:

Showing Off a Love of Hockey
Heart of a Husky

Save the Date!

Michigan Tech’s 100-Year Hockey Reunion will be August 5-7, 2021. You’re invited! Learn more here.

Simplicity On the Other Side of Complexity: Todd Stone at Michigan Tech Thursday (Today)

Geologic Schematic of Arena Energy’s First Drill Well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Todd Stone, co-founder and managing director of geology at Arena Energy, will visit Michigan Tech today, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 to deliver the First-Year Engineering Lecture to Michigan Tech’s incoming engineering majors.

Todd Stone is an engineer, explorer, conservationist, and entrepreneur. He is a Michigan Tech alumnus (Geological Engineering ’85), and a distinguished member of Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering Advisory Board.

Stone is on campus today to deliver the annual First-Year Engineering Lecture, “Simplicity On the Other Side of Complexity,” on Thursday, September 17 at 6 pm. Registered attendees will be provided a zoom link to attend the lecture remotely. Please register for the Zoom session at mtu.edu/ef.

“At Michigan Tech you are going to learn how to learn; learn how to solve difficult technical problems logically. And that is going to change your world.” – Todd Stone ’85

“We have a tradition at Tech of having a first-year lecture that helps students see how their technological education can help make a difference in the world,” says Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “Usually the event is held at the Rozsa Center to a packed house, with every seat taken. We can’t do that this year, of course, due to the pandemic. Instead, Todd will present his lecture on Zoom, to an audience of 800-plus students. With Zoom, though, we have room for more, so please join us. Everyone is welcome.”

Stone’s lecture will outline how he learned to work smart in school and throughout his career. He plans to highlight something he feels is top priority: Learning how to learn.

When Stone arrived at Michigan Tech nearly 40 years ago, he says, “It was the best and most mature decision of my young life. At first it was not difficult for me to work hard. My folks raised me that way; it was difficult for me to work smart.”

Todd Stone majored in Geological Engineering at Michigan Tech.

More About Todd Stone

Since co-founding Arena Energy in 1999, Todd Stone has focused on opportunity generation and management of the company’s opportunity-generating staff and systems. Stone is also responsible for maintaining, managing and high-grading the company’s robust prospect inventory, and is part of a eight-person geological group that has drilled over 300 wells. Before co-founding Arena, he was a key member of Newfield Exploration’s offshore acquisition and development team. Stone began his career with Tenneco Oil Company and later served as a geological engineer at Amerada Hess Corporation. He earned his B.S. in geological engineering from Michigan Technological University in 1985.

Interested in joining the Michigan Tech First Year Engineering lecture via Zoom? It will take place Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 6 pm, followed by Q&A. Please register for the Zoom session at mtu.edu/ef.


Joshua Pearce: 3D Printing Waste into Profit

Joshua Pearce shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, September 14 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Dr. Joshua Pearce is the Richard Witte Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Want to know how you can save money, even make money, by turning your household waste into valuable products? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Professor Joshua Pearce and alumna Megan Kreiger, will cover the exploding areas of distributed recycling and distributed manufacturing. They’ll also explain just how using an open-source approach enables the 3-D printing of products for less than the cost of sales taxes on commercial equivalents.

3-D printing need not be limited to household items. In other words, don’t be afraid to think big—like the whole house! Kreiger’s team was the first to 3-D print a building in the Americas and last year they 3-D printed a 32-foot-long reinforced concrete footbridge.

Yes, you can 3-D print concrete, in addition to plastic and metal.

Kreiger was Pearce’s very first Michigan Tech graduate student. She earned her BS in Math in 2009, and her MS in Materials Science and Engineering in 2012, both at Michigan Tech. She is now Program Manager of Additive Construction at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

Kreiger says she first became aware of 3-D printing at Michigan Tech, while working in Pearce’s 3-D printing lab. She worked with Pearce to show that distributed recycling and distributed manufacturing were better for the environment than traditional centralized processes.

“As the Program Manager for Additive Construction for ERDC, I lead a team of amazing researchers composed of engineers, scientists, technicians, and students,” says Michigan Tech Alumna Megan Kreiger. They created the first 3D printed footbridge in the Americas. “We were the first to look at continuous print operations and printing on unprepared surfaces.”

Pearce and his team of researchers in the MOST Lab (Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology) continue to focus on open and applied sustainability. As the Richard Witte Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Electrical and Computer Engineering, Pearce conducts research on photovoltaics ⁠— the materials behind solar energy⁠ — as a means to generate power in regions of the world where electricity is unavailable or prohibitively expensive. His research is also internationally renowned for its work in open source 3-D printing in order to enable both individuals as well as underserved regions to gain manufacturing capabilities.

Michigan Tech’s Open Source Hardware Enterprise developed the Granulator, a machine used to grind up plastic waste into usable feedstock that can be used in a filament extruder. Be sure to check out their site to learn more.

The MOST Lab, a cornerstone of Michigan Tech’s open source initiative, fosters strong collaboration between graduate and undergraduate researchers on campus—and with vast open source international networks, visiting scholars and industrial partners. Currently, most 3-D printing is done with virgin polymer feedstock, but research conducted by Michigan Tech’s MOST lab has shown that using recycled 3-D printing feedstock is not only technically viable, but costs much less, and is better for the environment.

Pearce is the advisor of the multidisciplinary, student-run Open Source Hardware Enterprise, part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program. Dedicated to the development and availability of open source hardware, the Enterprise team’s main activities: Design and prototype, make and publish—and collaborate with community.

Professor Pearce, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Pearce’s latest book project: Create, Share, and Save Money Using Open-Source Projects (October 2020), soon be published by McGraw Hill.

It happened just as I began to choose what type of graduate school to pursue. I was a physics and chemistry double major at the time. One of my close friends, a physics and math double major, claimed he never wanted to work on science with an application. As for me, I was painfully aware of the enormous challenges facing the world, challenges I believed could at least partially be solved with applications of science. That day my career trajectory took a definite tack towards engineering.

Family and Hobbies?

I live with my wife and children, all consummate makers, in the Copper Country. Old hobby: when flying, picking out how many products I could make for almost no money from the SkyMall catalog. New hobby: sharing how to do it with other people.

Megan, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Throughout high school I had a profound love of mathematics. I took every math class I could, and graduated a semester early. This love of mathematics drove me to engineering. I started my undergraduate degree in 2004, but switched over to Mathematics after an injury and a bad-taste-in-my-mouth experience during a summer engineering job. I graduated during the recession of 2009 and after one year off, decided to return to Michigan Tech for my graduate degree. I had an interest in recycling and earned an MS in Materials Science and Engineering while obtaining a graduate certificate in Sustainability. That’s when I fell in love with 3D printing. My passion has evolved into the union of materials science and additive manufacturing. I push the bounds and perceptions of large-scale additive manufacturing / construction.

Michigan Tech alumna Megan Kreiger is Program Manager for Additive Construction for US Army Corps of Engineers. She is also project manager and technical lead on Additive Manufacturing & Robotics projects.

Hometown, Family and Hobbies?

I grew up in rural Montana with my brother, raised by eco-friendly parents. At Michigan Tech while pursuing my degree, I spent her time hiking, snowboarding Mont Ripley, and backpacking the 44 miles of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with my husband. We now live in Champaign, Illinois, with our two children and our three at-home 3D printers. We spend our time raising chickens, wrangling pets (and kids), and working to modernize the construction industry for the US Military through the integration of concrete 3D printers.

Megan Kreiger and her team completed the first full-sized 3D printed concrete building in the United States, printed entirely in a field environment.

Read more:

MTU Engineering Team Joins Open-source Ventilator Movement

Q&A with the MTU Masterminds of 3D-printed PPE

Just Press Print: 3-D Printing At Home Saves Cash

Power by the People: Renewable Energy Reduces the Highest Electric Rates in the Nation


Husky Bites Returns for the Fall, Starts Monday

What are you doing for supper each Monday night this fall? Join College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan and special guests at 6 p.m. (EDT) each Monday, for a 20-minute interactive Zoom webinar, followed by a Q&A session.

Launched last June during the pandemic and back by popular demand, the fall season of Husky Bites starts Monday (Sept. 14). Each “bite” is a free, suppertime mini-lecture, presented by a different Michigan Tech faculty member. They’ll weave in a bit of their own personal journey, and bring a co-host, too — an alumnus or current student who knows a thing or two about the topic at hand.

Important note: Even if you registered for Husky Bites last summer, you will need to register again — a second time — for fall at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Know others who might be interested? Feel free to invite a friend. All are welcome. “We’ve had attendees from nine countries, and a great mix of students, alumni, our Michigan Tech community and friends,” says Dean Callahan, who mails out prizes for (near) perfect attendance, too. (Last summer there were Husky Bites t-shirts, and Michigan Tech face masks, sewn right here in Houghton).

The series kicks off Monday (Sept. 14) with a session from Joshua Pearce (ECE/MSE), with co-host Megan Kreiger, Pearce’s first Michigan Tech grad student. Want to know how you can make money turning your household waste into valuable products? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Professor Joshua Pearce and his co-host, alumna Megan Krieger, will cover the exploding areas of distributed recycling and distributed manufacturing. They’ll also explain just how using an open-source approach enables the 3-D printing of products for less than the cost of sales taxes on commercial equivalents.

Get the full scoop and register (or re-register) at mtu.edu/huskybites.


Here’s a quick rundown of our Fall 2020 lineup, below:

Monday, 9/14
Joshua Pearce — “3D Printing Waste into Profit,” with co-host Megan Kreiger, Program Manager, Additive Construction, US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and Michigan Tech (Math ‘09, MSE‘12) alumna.

Monday, 9/21
Bill Sproule (professor emeritus CEE) — “Michigan Tech, and the Stanley Cup,” with co-host John Scott, NHL All-Star MVP and Michigan Tech alumnus (ME ‘10).

Monday, 9/28
Sarah Ye Sun (ME-EM) — “Nice Shirt! Embroidered Electronics and Motion-Powered Devices,” with co-host George Ochieze, a current Michigan Tech student.”

Monday, 10/5
Orhan Soykan (BioMed) — “Prolific Inventing,” with co-host Dr. Tim Kolesar, MD, development quality engineer, Abbott Labs, and a Michigan Tech alumnus (BME ‘19).

Monday, 10/12
Erik Herbert (MSE) — “Holy Grail! Energy Storage on the Nanoscale,” co-host TBD.

Monday, 10/19
Tim Havens (CC) — “Warm and Fuzzy Machine Learning,” with co-host Hanieh Deilamsalehy, a machine learning researcher at Adobe and Michigan Tech alumnus (ECE ‘17).

Monday, 10/26
Paul Bergstrom (ECE) — “Quantum Dot Devices and Single Electron Transistors,” co-host TBD.

Monday, 11/2
Mary Raber (PHC) — “Solving Wicked Problems,” co-host TBD.

Monday, 11/9
David Shonnard (ChE) —” Waste Plastics are Taking Over the World and The Solution is Circular,” co-host TBD.

Monday, 11/16
TBD

Monday, 11/23
Bill Predebon, (Chair ME-EM) — “Say Yes to the Quest,” with co-host Marty Lagina, CEO, Heritage Sustainable Energy, winemaker, Michigan Tech alumnus (ME ‘77), and reality TV show star (Curse of Oak Island): “Say Yes to the Quest,” with co-host Bill Predebon, (Chair ME-EM)

Monday, 11/30
Pengfei Xue (CEE) — “What Superior (the Supercomputer) Tells Us About Superior (the Lake),” co-host TBD.

Monday, 12/7
Raymond Shaw (Physics) — “Lake Superior in My Driveway: Lake Effect Snow in the Keweenaw,” with co-host Will Cantrell, dean of the Graduate School.


Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2020

Bobbi Wood
Bobbi Wood

ThermoAnalytics, Inc., a leader in advanced thermal, fluid-flow, and infrared modeling software, announced the promotion of Bobbi Wood to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer, effective August 24, 2020. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer since 2019. Wood holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.


Meet Brett Hamlin, Engineering Fundamentals Interim Department Chair

Brett Hamlin, a Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus, now leads the Department of Engineering Fundamentals

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce Dr. Brett Hamlin as interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

Hamlin grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, both at Michigan Tech.

He first joined Michigan Tech as a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in 1998. He is a senior lecturer as well as previous assistant chair in the department.

Hamlin’s teaching interests include graphics, visualization, solid mechanics, design, and thermo sciences. His research interests include educational methods, spatial visualization, heat transfer, and biomechanics. 
 

“I’m excited about this opportunity. I hope to continue to work with the dedicated faculty of the department and continue to push the boundaries of excellence in engineering education.”

Brett Hamlin, Interim Chair, Engineering Fundamentals


“I am delighted that Dr. Hamlin will be Interim Chair of Engineering Fundamentals, joining the leadership team of the college,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “His passion for first year teaching and learning, and his administrative experience strongly prepare him for this leadership role.”

Hamlin serves as faculty advisor for Michigan Tech’s student-run GEAR Enterprise team. The focus of GEAR (General & Expedition Adventure Research) is to design, model, test, prototype, and manufacture a wide variety of goods and equipment used in recreational outdoor and commercial expedition endeavors. Hamlin was a longtime advisor for Michigan Tech’s SAE Baja Enterprise. He also serves as an instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology—teaching Outdoor Emergency Care.

A former top Nordic skier, Hamlin is a senior level member of the Ski Patrol, qualified on both snowboard and Alpine skis. He is active in the local mountain biking scene, and on any given weekend you will find the entire Hamlin family out and about, either biking, skiing, hiking, camping, or climbing.

“I like to solve problems and brainteasers, and engineering is just like solving brainteasers in real life.”

Brett Hamlin

Previous department chair, Associate Professor Jon Sticklen, returns to faculty ranks. His focus has broadened to include STEM education research and teaching. He also plans to collaborate with Michigan Tech’s Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences in its effort to develop a new undergraduate major, Human Factors.

Interested in meeting or talking with Prof. Brett Hamlin? Feel free to reach out via email or stop by his office at 112 Dillman.


Joe Foster: Through the Looking Glass! Geospatial Wizardry

Joe Foster shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 13 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What if you had a high-tech job, but spent your work day outside, enjoying nature and fresh air each day? If you like computing, and the great outdoors, you need to learn more about what it takes to become a geospatial engineer.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech. He teaches courses in the elements of land surveying. He has served as a Principal for successful Land Surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects. “I’m also an old Michigan Tech alum, with a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, and a second Bachelor’s degree in Surveying, both from Michigan Tech,” he notes.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Studying geospatial engineering is both an adventure and a learning experience, says Foster. A lot of learning⁠—and geospatial wizardry⁠—takes place outdoors, in the field.

“Surveyors are experts at measuring,” Foster explains. “A myriad of equipment have been used over the years to accomplish the task, tools of the trade, so to speak. Over time, Surveying has evolved to become more, known now as Geospatial Engineering.”

Surveyors, now known as Geospatial Engineers, measure the physical features of the Earth with great precision and accuracy, calculating the position, elevation, and property lines of parcels of land. They verify and establish land boundaries and are key players in the design and layout of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, cell phone towers, pipelines, and wind farms.

And they are in demand. “There is an ongoing need for Surveyors,” says Foster. “Jobs are open and can’t be filled fast enough. We have a great need for those with an interest and aptitude for the profession.”

All land-based engineering projects begin with surveying to locate structures on the ground,” says Foster. Numerous industries rely on the geospatial data and products that geospatial engineers provide. With advances in technology, the need is increasing, too⁠—from architectural firms, engineering firms, government agencies, real estate agencies, mining companies and others.

Geospatial engineering students at Michigan Tech use satellite technology GPS and GIS to determine locations and boundaries.

Out in the field, Geospatial Engineers peer “through the looking glass” using numerous tools. “Robotic total stations, GPS receivers, scanners, LiDAR, and UAVs only scratch the surface of what is available in the toolbox,” says Foster.

Three theodolites on campus at Michigan Tech

Advances in GPS technology have led to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mapping, as well as geospatial data capture and visualization technologies. Geospatial engineers also use virtual reality integration, Structure from Motion (a technique which utilizes a series of 2-dimensional images to reconstruct the 3-dimensional structure of a scene or object, similar to LiDAR), and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (drones). At Michigan Tech, students learn to use these tools, too.

Geospatial engineering students choose from two concentrations, says Foster. “Professional Surveying prepares students to become state-licensed professional surveyors. Students learn to locate accurate real property boundaries, conduct data capture of the natural/man-made objects on the Earth’s surface⁠—and conduct digital mapping for use in design or planning.” 

Geospatial engineers use drones, too.

The second concentration is Geoinformatics. “Students learn to manage large volumes of digital geo-information that can be stored, manipulated, visualized, analyzed, and shared,” he adds. “Students use more Geographic Information Science (GIS) tools, remote sensing, big data acquisition, and cloud computing.”

Do you love math + computing+ the great outdoors? Geospatial engineering combines all those things.

Once you’re working as a geospatial engineer, you could end up using both concentrations. “Land surveying and geographic information systems (GIS) are complementary tools,” he says.

Foster is excited about the growth of opportunities in the profession. During his own career, Foster worked as a principal for successful land surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects, including boundary, county remonumentation, and cadastral (USDA-FS) retracement surveys; topographic, site planning, and flood plain surveys; mine surveys (surface and underground); plats and subdivisions; and both conventional and GPS control surveys. He’s managed contracts with the USDA-Forest Service, mining companies in Northern Minnesota, the State of Michigan, and more. 

Foster is also a member of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS). At Michigan Tech, he’s advisor to the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (DHSC). Last year the group continued their tradition with the annual General Land Office (GLO) Workshop. Sponsored by DHSC and conducted by Pat Leemon, PS, retired U.S. Forest Surveyor from the Ottawa National Forest, it is a search/perpetuation of an original GLO corner. “That’s a once in a lifetime experience for a Surveyor,” says Foster.

Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County. Getting there will take you on the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. The peak is the highest point in Michigan.

When did you first get into surveying? What sparked your interest?

I first got interested in Surveying while studying forestry at Michigan Tech.  Surveying was one of the courses in the program. That’s where I learned there could be an entire profession centered on surveying alone.  I was hooked.  It incorporated everything I had come to enjoy about forestry; working outside, using sophisticated equipment, drafting, and actually putting all the math I had learned to practical use. After earning my first bachelor’s degree in Forestry, I decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in Surveying and to pursue that as my career.  

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born and raised in Michigan and have worked in the forest product industry and surveying profession for over 25 years. Work has taken me to just about every corner of Northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Copper Country. I came to know my wife, Kate at Fall Camp at Alberta, at Michigan Tech’s Ford Forestry Center. We made our home in the Keweenaw, where we both have strong family ties.

Lake Superior is our first love, and one that we share. Here’s a little known fact….Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area in the entire United States, with 541 square miles of land and 5,425 square miles of water. Nearly 90 percent of Keweenaw County is under the surface of Lake Superior!


Tony Pinar: How Do Machines Learn?

Tony Pinar shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, June 22 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Can machines learn, for real? Just how intelligent are they? Will machines and robots someday take over the world?

“Machine learning has become a popular tool in the digital world,” says Tony Pinar. “For people outside the field it seems almost magical that a machine could learn.”

Machine-learning algorithms do indeed “learn”, though it probably is not as glamorous as many people think. And not only that, says Pinar, they can be fooled.

ECE faculty member Dr. Tony Pinar earned his BS, MS and PhD in electrical engineering, all at Michigan Tech.

A lecturer and researcher in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech, Pinar demystifies machine learning for students, and shows them how it’s done.

Pinar has even taught his own laptop a thing or two.

“Machine learning is actually a subfield of AI, or artificial intelligence,” says Pinar. “That’s a buzz word for simulating intelligence with a machine.”

Machine learning, he explains, is a collection of algorithms, biologically-inspired neural networks, that allow a computer to learn properties from observations, often with the goal of prediction.

“One pretty common misconception is that AI and machine learning are new. While the field has made leaps in the last few decades, some aspects of machine learning were developed in the 1800s, probably by Gauss,” says Pinar. Carl Friedrich Gauss, the German mathematician, is considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.

Pinar’s own research interests are in applied machine learning and data fusion. “It is exciting to me to watch the cutting edge move forward, see what sticks and what doesn’t, and observe how the directions of the field evolve,” he says. “It’s also rewarding to work on open-ended and novel problems that are in their infancy and at the cutting edge of today’s technology.”

Pinar is a member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) at Michigan Tech. ICC provides a platform for innovative research and supports collaboration. The ICC’s 50 members represent 15 academic units at Michigan Tech.

It is exciting to me to watch the cutting edge move forward, see what sticks and what doesn’t, and observe how the directions of the field evolve.

Dr. Tony Pinar

“Often, the strongest solutions to be found are multidisciplinary, where people from many different fields work on the same problem,” notes Pinar.

As senior design coordinator for Michigan Tech’s ECE department, Pinar mentors students working on the final big design project of their senior year. Michigan Tech’s senior design program is more like a first job than a last class, and many projects are sponsored by industry.

What does working on senior design look like? It looks like testing, iterating, compiling, and teaming. This group of ME, EE, and CpE students is working on the SICK LiDAR challenge. They they ended up winning an Honorable Mention in the nationwide competition.

One senior design team that Pinar advised this past spring⁠—a multidisciplinary team comprised of students majoring in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer engineering⁠—competed in the TiM$10K Challenge, a national innovation and design competition. Student teams were invited to participate from 20 different universities by Sick USA. Sick AG, based in Waldkirch, Germany, is a global manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions.

For the competition, teams were supplied with a 270-foot SICK LiDAR sensor, the TIM, and accessories, and challenged to solve a problem, create a solution or new application.

The Tech team members — Brian Parvin, Kurtis Alessi, Alex Kirchner, David Brushaber and Paul Allen — earned Honorable Mention (fourth place overall) for their project, Evaluating Road Markings (the Road Stripe Evaluator). The innovative product aims to help resolve issues caused by poor road markings.

“Road stripes around the world require frequent maintenance,” Pinar explains. “That’s because fading road stripes cause fatal car accidents and other safety concerns. The team’s software and device can be mounted on police cars in order to cover a wide region. And instead of repainting all road stripes, road crews can become discerning, learning which roads need repainting, and focus only on those, potentially saving a fortune each year on paint and maintenance.”

“Each year, fading road stripes cause fatal car accidents,” says Pinar. “This senior design team’s software and device the Road Stripe Evaluator, could potentially save lives.”

SICK asked each team in the competition to submit a video and paper for judging upon completion of its project. A panel of judges decided the winning submissions based on creativity and innovation, ability to solve a customer problem, commercial potential, entrepreneurship of the team, and reporting.

While the team’s prototype does not depend on machine learning, the project may continue in upcoming semester. That way, another senior design team will be able to build a machine learning solution into the prototype, notes Pinar.

In April, the team also won an Honorable Mention for the Road Stripe Evaluator project at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo, competing with 50+ other senior design teams.

How did you first get interested in engineering? What sparked your interest?

I was raised near the small town of Trout Creek, Michigan. I’ve always been obsessed with figuring out how things work. I was also interested in electricity from a young age, thanks to my dad, who had me help him to wire houses as an electrician. These led me to pursue electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, where I learned EE was so much more than power distribution.

You earned your BS, MS and PhD at Michigan Tech, all in electrical engineering. What kind of projects did you work on as a student?

I had the opportunity to work on many interesting projects as a student, both applied and research-based. As an undergrad I contributed to projects such as a solar-tracking solar panel, a Tesla coil, and an industry-sponsored project concerning wireless power transfer. In graduate school I worked on projects involving autonomous underwater gliders, 3D metal printers, and explosive hazard detection using ground penetrating radar; my dissertation was focused on the algorithms I developed and used for much of the explosive hazard detection problem.

What do you like most about teaching electrical engineering?

Teaching is like a puzzle where one may have to take a difficult concept, reduce it to digestible pieces, and deliver them to fresh minds in a way to maximize understanding and insight. That challenge is what drives me to be a better teacher. It keeps me on my toes, forces me to constantly identify holes in my knowledge, and drives me to continuously strive to learn new things.

Can you tell us about your life now? Any hobbies?

I live in Hancock with my wife, Noelle, and our two small boys, Malcolm and Dexter. If I’m not spending time outdoors in the Keweenaw with my family, you will probably find me playing guitar or tinkering with a side project.

Learn More

232: Road Marking Reflectivity Evaluator